EU Cohesion policy on the front line of the recovery: €34 billion approved for regions and cities in just 4 months  

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, at the press conference for the launch of the 19th European Week of Regions and Cities 2021, the Commission took stock of the implementation of the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU). With €34.1 billion approved and €3.5 billion already paid out in just four months, REACT-EU was the very first instrument of NextGenerationEU to make payments for the recovery of Member States.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “Cohesion policy has been at the forefront during the emergency phase of the pandemic, and is once again one of the major policies for the recovery in the EU. Cohesion policy instruments have provided necessary health equipment to citizens and brought lifelines to small companies along with making a crucial contribution to the digital and green transition of the whole EU. I am happy to see that these achievements are also increasingly recognised by European citizens. Territory and people need to remain at the centre of Member States recovery efforts.”

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “Behind every euro spent through the ESF, there is an investment in people. The EU’s structural and cohesion funds, and notably the REACT-EU programme, are driving the recovery from the pandemic. Thanks to EU support, companies could keep workers in their jobs and food packages were delivered to people most in need. This is EU solidarity in action and I am glad to see this investment into people and the recovery is paying off.”

In just 4 months, 86% of the available REACT-EU resources for this year have been approved. €21.7 billion are mobilised through the European Regional Development Fund, €12 billion through the European Social Fund and €410m through the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived.

The REACT-EU funding complements the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) package that mobilised more than €21 billion in response to the urgent economic and social needs of the sectors most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Concrete examples of EU solidarity

Here are some concrete examples of the support that people and businesses have received through REACT-EU:

  • European Regional Development Fund (ERDF): In Portugal, the ERDF has supported the purchase of vaccines for more than half of the population. In Slovenia, the ERDF has funded the installation of new IT systems in the health sector. In the Czech Republic, the ERDF is funding the purchase of new medical equipment helping the regions to become more resilient against future health crises. In Sweden, the ERDF is supporting small companies to manage the digital transition. 
  • European Social Fund (ESF): Across Member States, people received training, coaching, and career guidance to increase their chances of maintaining their jobs or finding new ones. In Italy, businesses received hiring subsidies to support the employment of women and young people. The ESF also supported financial counselling services and housing for homeless people. 
  • Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD): In Austria and Romania for instance, children in need have received school supplies. In Estonia, France, Luxembourg and other Member States, food aid like warm meals and basic material assistance like hygiene products were delivered to most deprived people.

Awareness of EU funded projects is increasing

The results of the new Eurobarometer survey show that Cohesion policy’s support for the recovery is well noticed by the citizens, with 69% of respondents aware of Cohesion policy initiatives against the negative effects of the pandemic.

In general, the report shows that the overall awareness of EU-funded projects is increasing. The EU average is now at 41%. This represents an increase by 7 percentage points compared to 10 years ago. Out of those who are aware of EU-funded projects, 80% think that they have a positive impact on the regions.

Background

NextGenerationEU is a temporary recovery instrument of some €800 billion in current prices to support Europe’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and help build a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6 billion additional funding (in current prices) over the course of 2021 and 2022 to Cohesion policy programmes. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery. To provide the maximum possible assistance to the Member States, the implementing conditions for these additional resources are very generous and flexible. Among others, no national co-financing is required for this funding, meaning that the EU can provide 100% support if Member States so wish. Expenditure can be financed under REACT-EU retroactively from 1 February 2020 until 31 December 2023.

After the adoption by the Commission of the new Own Resources Decision allowing the Commission to borrow money on the financial markets, on 28 June REACT-EU made the very first payment under NextGenerationEU.

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